Archive for 'Consumer Report'

Discogs Cheapos: Summer Slowdown 2021

As you may have noticed, fewer records are rolling through these pages in recent months. Chalk it up to a variety of reasons: record prices going up (how many thirty-dollar LPs can I possibly fit into my budget?), records caught in endless plant delays, labels focusing on digital and cassettes in order to release music in a timely fashion, and so on. It’s not the best time to try to release a record, seeing as if you press two- or three-hundred copies, you’re guaranteed to either sell out immediately and watch as they sell for a hundred bucks a pop two weeks later (and fans yell at you for it), or barely sell a dozen and sit on the rest forever. It’s hard and only getting harder! So, now that I’ve outlined a particularly bleak vinyl landscape, allow me to remind you, fellow music enthusiast, that there are still millions of old records that rule, sitting out there in bargain bins (and, of course, on Discogs) waiting to be snatched up for pennies on the dollar. Fill up your cart with these!

Envy Envy 7″ (New Direction, 1995)
Let’s kick this off with some distinctive… generic youth-crew hardcore?? Bear with me on this one: Envy were a straight-edge hardcore band from Buffalo in the mid ’90s, strongly indebted to the Revelation Records scene that broke out while they were in middle school. The cover photo is an almost exact rip of the shot used on Youth Of Today’s Disengage 7″, which has a song called, you guessed it, “Envy”. The label, which was probably run by someone in Envy, takes its name from the opening Gorilla Biscuits song on their album, of whom a substantial portion of Envy’s riffs are indebted; I could go on but you get the picture. Extreme youth-crew homage done less than a decade from its initial source, which arrived right when I was a teenager eager to discover positive mosh music. Extremely generic (yet enjoyable) stuff here, with the exception of one crucial aspect: the drums. This drummer must’ve had absolutely no idea what he was doing, so in an inexplicable twist, he does a push-beat (where you hit the snare on the one instead of the two) for all of these songs, giving them a bizarre energy all their own. Can you even mosh in a standard youth-crew style to this rhythm? Vocalist Larry Ransom is perfectly squeaky and impassioned about skating and friends and the edge, and paired with the world’s worst hardcore drumming, you’ve got a two-dollar hardcore single that’s as hysterical as it is typical.

Last Few Days Too Much Is Not Enough 12″ (Touch, 1986)
Okay, so that Envy record definitely won’t be for everyone, especially those of you who (insert eye-roll emoji) only like good music, but this Last Few Days record comes with the highest possible recommendation across the board – if you remotely like the music I champion on here, you need a copy of this. I know little of this European post-punk group, mostly just that they toured with Laibach, kept an extremely low profile and had cool show posters (of which I desperately need to obtain). Somehow, they got on Touch way back in 1985 – yes, the same high-minded electronic composition label that continues to this day – and released this absolute monster of an industrial post-punk tune. I’m referring to the title track, and oh my god, put it on now! It’s a gnarly rhythmic force, little more than live drums and pulsing bass peppered with the occasional confrontational vocal. Imagine Emptyset remixing Black Eyes, Coil remixing Rema Rema, or something Troubleman Unlimited would’ve released between the years of 1999 and 2005 (and would’ve been their best release of the year). “Solemn Warnings” is an eerie tape experiment of horns and sounds, and “If The Bonds Are Not To Burst” is a foreboding organ drone with shouted vocals, adding to the ominous industrial vibe. Fans of Test Dept and SPK need to scoop this immediately, before some hip retrospective compilation drops with “Too Much Is Not Enough” prominently featured and this record starts to command a collector’s price.

The Musical Janeens Sell Out LP (Plurex, 1980)
Truly stumped as to why this one remains a five-dollar cheapo. We’re talking about noisy post-punk from 1980 on the Plurex label, an imprint I hold dearly in my heart for releasing such all-time punk classics as Filth’s Don’t Hide Your Hate and Tits’ Daddy Is My Pusher, both of which command three figures (and are worth every penny). Featuring one member who would later join The Human League, The Musical Janeens played rambunctiously amateur post-punk, favoring improvisational freakery and dub aesthetics to punk’s speedy rock n’ roll formula. Imagine The Door & The Window trying to replicate Public Image Ltd’s dub style to befuddled live audiences across Europe, which is also precisely in front of whom Sell Out was recorded. It would’ve fit in nicely alongside the Fuck Off Records catalog, presumably excluded from Johan Kugelberg’s Top 100 DIY singles on the simple fact that this is an album, not a single. I absolutely love this defiant, early Rough Trade sound, and I know I’m not alone in that opinion, so it continues to mystify me why The Musical Janeens are unheralded and underpriced. How long until the lavish Vinyl On Demand reissue treatment?

Ryuichi Sakamoto featuring Thomas Dolby ‎Field Work 12″ (10, 1985)
Did you know that these two ’80s synth-pop pioneers got together to make some tracks way back when? I only found out a couple years ago but I’ve been spinning my copy of Field Work religiously ever since. While most collaborations are often less than the sum of their parts, “Field Work” is a monster banger, like an evolved strain of city-pop based in the cyber-metropolitan zone that Sonic the Hedgehog might run through. What a tune! It’s so fast yet tidy, giving me visions of Japanese bullet trains with Thomas Dolby waving goodbye from the window, his perfectly weird lyrics lodging themselves in your brain (is he supposed to be, like, an archaeologist in love or something?). How come of all the millions of artists making synth-pop today, none of them come close to this? The b-side is a solo Sakamoto outing, and on an entirely different tip: it’s a beautifully bent tone poem that pre-dates the Mille Plateaux IDM scene by at least ten years while still sounding fresh today. Pretty essential electronic listening on both sides, and due to the various domestic and international pressings back in 1985, you can own one for like three bucks plus shipping.

Ziamaluch Ziamaluch 12″ (Flipped Out, 1996)
Fans of Bill Orcutt, take note! He might be the most notable guitarist to spew unhinged blues chords today, but there was also at least Ziamaluch doing it in the ’90s too, the moniker used by one Jackson Wingate. He ran the Flipped Out label that released this, and he christened its discography appropriately with this self-titled one-sided LP in a limited run of two-hundred copies all with repurposed LP sleeves. Wingate absolutely shreds through this one, very much in line with the first run of Bill Orcutt solo records as well as the great Demo Moe album and Jeph Jerman’s Blowhole project, except this is a solo guitar record through and through. 1996 is not a year known for excellent improvised guitar noise, which makes this one stand out even stronger in my humble opinion. I kinda love how emboldened and out-of-time the upstate NY noisy underground has been from the early ’90s through to the present, clearly in love with their own work and the work of their friends rather than concerning themselves with popularity, social standing or, ugh, “making it”. Next time I need my ears cleaned out, I’m gonna lay down on a tarp and crank Ziamaluch to eleven.

Parody Beef Primer

Alright, in previous years I used this space to highlight some of my favorite records that could be had on Discogs for the cheap, but I’m taking this moment to share with you a different genre of vinyl release that I find endlessly appealing: that of parody beef. Before the internet consumed our every waking thought, you could only troll someone in the punk scene by sending in a letter to MRR, making your own zine and passing it out at shows (or even better, running masked into a local record shop and dropping a stack near the door before running out ala the local one-pager Faux), putting up flyers around town, or, if you really wanted to go for it, pressing and releasing a record for that specific purpose! I’m To be clear, I’m talking about records that satirized their targets, were generally pretty unfriendly about it, and usually utilized some form of trickery or subterfuge in doing so. Bonus points for when the attack is sincerely hilarious, of course. Thusly, I’m not counting records that are simply hoaxes (such as the Frothy Milkshakes’ ingeniously fabricated Killed By Death #11 “compilation”) or records that are simply parodies (like the truly pitiful Gayrilla Biscuits). Allow me to discuss five of my favorite examples of this beautiful phenomenon below!

Oxes / Arab On Radar split 10″ (Wäntage USA, 2000)
Let’s start on this absolute gem of a fraud: the Oxes / Arab On Radar split 10″. Oxes were a great math-rock trio out of Baltimore (who apparently are putting out a new LP sometime in the near future after years of dormancy!), and a snide sort of unfriendly prankishness was always part of their MO – for live shows, both guitarists utilized wireless setups, which allowed them to run through or out of the venue, onto tables, in peoples’ unsuspecting faces; to basically do anything they shouldn’t be doing. To my knowledge, they’re the only instrumental math-rock group (of any era) to have released an album that came with a poster featuring a photo spread of the band snorting drugs with full-frontal nudity on display, if that helps set the scene. Anyway, they released this “split” with Arab On Radar, which ended up being not actually Arab On Radar but rather Oxes doing a spot-on impersonation of the Providence noise-rock pervert kings. Hilarious! They ape the nail-on-a-chalkboard guitars and high-pitched babble of vocalist Eric Paul, complete with brain-dead sex-pun song titles like “Fallopian Boobs” and “Rough Gay At The Office” (which is actually dangerously close to the real Arab On Radar album title Rough Day At The Orifice). I love Arab On Radar, and I also love that Oxes were able to imitate them so expertly, as if to say “look at how dumb your silly self-serious band is, that we were able to do basically the same thing in five minutes”. At the time, word on the street was that Arab On Radar were sincerely pissed about it, to which someone involved with the band or label ended up claiming that the record was actually meant to be billed as a sole Oxes release with the title of JVPVJ NO QVJV, because that’s the way Arab On Radar’s name on the cover looks if you read it upside down – mmhmm, suuuuuure that’s what you meant! If anything, I’d say both bands benefited from this record, as it elevated Arab On Radar to the level of “band that is worth trying to piss off”, while also showcasing Oxes as the most outrageous underground pranksters of Y2K. I remember when R5 Productions here in Philadelphia ended up booking both bands to play together around that time, but I can’t fully recall what went down – I think Arab On Radar cancelled? Either way, I’ll tell you who reaped the rewards from this silly mess: music fans like you and me.

Plainfield Jello Biafra With Plainfield 12″ (“Alternative Tentacles”, 1995)
This is actually the record that inspired this column, because wow, this is about as demonic of a fraudulent parody as any record listed here! Neither Plainfield nor Jello Biafra, this record was apparently written and performed by Grux, the San Franciscan maniac behind Caroliner and Rubber-O-Cement and a dozen other obscure projects that draped their records in paint and wet cardboard and zero discernible information. Grux imitates both Plainfield (the noise-rock group) and Jello Biafra here, opening the record with a phony phone call between Plainfield’s Smelly Mustafa and Jello Biafra wherein they make plans to commit homophobic murder and necrophilia later in the evening. It really sets the tone, which then leads into “Eric’s Throwpillow”, a chunky noise-rock instrumental with “Smelly” berating and admonishing “Jello”. “Jello” makes it clear he is only appearing on the record for the paycheck as he puts minimal effort into his vocal part while mumbling about lawsuits with Chumbawumba among other nonsense. It’s absolutely side-splittingly hilarious! The fake Jello voice is close but not perfect, and their banter is such a direct indictment of punk fame and its over-the-hill pointlessness. “Nuance Of Fifty Cents” follows with “Jello” on a bullhorn, ranting about everything and nothing over a scattered improv mess. Grux continues to make a fool of Jello over the rest of the record, attempting to reveal him as a past-his-prime businessman more interested in preserving his own status-quo than promoting any sort of creativity or commitment to the underground. The music is great, but the full scope of the record bears mention: Grux swiped the Alternative Tentacles logo for this release, complete with a “Virus 132” catalog number (which curiously does not exist on the real Alternative Tentacles!) and re-appropriated “1950s nuclear family” artwork to perfectly nail the aesthetic. Apparently, Jello and his crew took note, allegedly releasing DUH’s The Unholy Handjob in retaliation – I’m getting that from Wikipedia, because I’m unable to determine how exactly any of it pushes back against Grux. Maybe the song title “Our Guitarist Is In Faith No More” is a shot at how they don’t care about fame and fortune? I do know that Chris Dodge (of Spazz and Stikky fame) played on that DUH record, which is fitting as he is one of my favorite ’90s hardcore jokesters. Seems like Jello took the beating like a champ, which is really the best he could do when faced with this ludicrous and obscene indictment.

The Locust The Locust 7″ (I Don’t Feel A Thing, 2001)
I was a teenager active in hardcore-punk in the late ’90s, and let me tell you, The Locust’s 1998 tour supporting their debut full-length led to the most profound alteration of the state of the scene I’ve ever witnessed. It wasn’t just a tour, it was an evangelical cataclysm that seemingly changed the scene’s aesthetic overnight: you could watch as band t-shirts went from size XL to size S almost immediately following their show in your town (with the great Jenny Piccolo opening). Suddenly, you had cutesy pop-punkers Bedford turning into sassy Locust clones An Albatross, baggy skate-shorts turning into skin-tight girls jeans, and black-dyed Spock cuts replacing, I dunno, that thing where you grow your hair long on top, shave the sides and wear it in a ponytail? The Locust seemed to revel in the attention and infamy, inciting audiences to wear costumes (or nothing at all) at their shows, and releasing weird/annoying things like a 3″ CD (causing a riot amongst fans who listened to CDs in their cars, which was pretty much all of us) and a remix album with a single seventeen-second track on one side of a 12″ record. Not to mention their belt buckles and “coke mirrors”, which is probably the first instance a lot of my friends had even heard of coke as a viable party drug (we were so innocent!). Anyway, history seems to have forgotten the profound cultural change that The Locust heralded – would there have even been a Makeout Club or crab-core without them? – and I want to make clear the severity of their influence at the time. I was a huge fan (though I found my interest waning by the time they started wearing those bug costumes on stage), and still love their full-length debut, but along with popularity comes haters, of which The Locust had plenty. I remember stories of their van being vandalized on tour, but someone out there took it a step further and pressed up this one-sided clear-vinyl 7″ under their name. Rather than imitating the group musically, the prankster utilized an extended clip of a baby violently crying. If you told me this was actually a Haters record, it’d certainly make sense, but as a diss, it’s mostly ineffective – sure, the guilty party still doled out fake song titles in the convoluted Locust fashion, but it’s kind of a flimsy attack otherwise. Are they trying to say The Locust were crybabies? Crybabies about what, exactly? I suppose the entry of a new, fake Locust record to the marketplace could cause the band some grief, but besides that, it seems The Locust got the last laugh here. Just another notch on their white-belt of infamy (which, come to think of it, is probably a Locust song title).

Grudge Project-Ex 7″ (Jism, 1989)
Is there a more reviled / beloved topic in the hardcore underground than The Straight Edge? Methinks not. Countless feuds have erupted over its strict philosophy, lines drawn in the sand over and over again, with humorless and hilarious soldiers on each side of this never-ending war. At the height of straight-edge’s powers, members of Orange County hardcore band Half Off put together this one-off band and 7″ EP as a scalding send-up of essentially all of straight-edge’s top players at the time, and they did so masterfully. The amount of references, jokes and insults they crammed into this single 7″ EP is utterly staggering – this is a master-class in vinyl-based roasting. A few examples: the label Jism is a gag on popular edge-core label Schism, “Drinking’s Great” parodies Youth Of Today’s “Thinking Straight”, vocalist Carl Of Tomorrow is clearly a play on Ray Cappo’s “Ray Of Today” moniker, Grudge mocks Judge, guitarist Keg Ahead mocks Sick Of It All’s Craig Ahead… it truly never ends. They do a skit mocking Raybeez and Warzone, the cover is a Gorilla Biscuits parody with a wimpy straight-edger being beaten down, and the phony “live” shots of the band playing in their bedrooms with black electrical tape Xs covering their crotches and sneakers is a glory to behold. Grudge go so hard in their parody of the form that one could easily read this as a loving tribute as much as a bullying middle-finger, and if you were to ask me, I’d say it’s certainly both. These songs rip, and have also made it impossible for me to hear Youth Of Today’s “Thinking Straight” without mentally substituting Grudge’s inebriated words. One could argue that Project X (who are clearly referenced in the title of this EP) are the inverse of Grudge, a side-project that calls for direct violence against the non-edge quotient, but even though it seems unwise to take Project X’s aggressive lyrics at face value, they didn’t have an ounce of Grudge’s knuckleheaded humor (though Straight Edge Revenge is rightly lauded as one of the top five straight-edge EPs of all time). An original Project X 7″ will run you hundreds of dollars at this point, but you can still get a Project-Ex on beer-colored vinyl for like seven bucks!

Voodoo Glow Skulls & Hickey split 7″ (Probe, 1997)
Of all the records listed here, this is by far the most sophisticated take-down of the bunch. As the story goes (which is covered in exhaustive detail in the twenty-six page zine that accompanies this record!), Voodoo Glow Skulls and Hickey played a show together in Mesa, AZ in the fall of 1995. Through events that mostly remain unexplained (I’d love to get the ‘Glow Skulls perspective on that particular evening), Voodoo Glow Skulls were furious with Hickey’s performance and forced them to leave the venue immediately after playing, unable to collect their previously-agreed-upon fifty-dollar fee. On their way out, one of them swiped a trumpet belonging to Voodoo Glow Skulls (valued at an alleged and unbelievable four grand!), an unscrupulous move that set the wrath of The Glow Skull upon them. In the ensuing weeks and months, Hickey received numerous threatening voice-messages from the Glow Skull camp, which they then decided to save and press as the Voodoo Glow Skulls side of this split 7″, overlaid with, get this, the tuneless bleating of one of Hickey’s members playing the stolen horn. Impeccable! Thank god this conflict happened before text-messaging, otherwise we’d have what, some screenshots on Instagram to enjoy? Who cares. Seriously, can you think of a more infuriating way to handle the situation? Imagine having Riverside punk gangsters threatening you, and purposefully escalating the situation in response. If it wasn’t already clear at that point, Hickey DGAF, and this proudly-advertised move practically begged Voodoo Glow Skulls’ burly crew to come hang them up by their shorts. Unfortunately for us beef lovers, the zine documents that Hickey did give the horn back shortly thereafter, thus presumably ending the conflict (amazingly without an actual beatdown). They covered their tracks nicely by sending proceeds (though they don’t specific exactly how much of the proceeds) from this split 7″ to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, because what are Voodoo Glow Skulls gonna do, sue to have a few hundred bucks taken out of the hands of a noble charity? Truly a masterclass in trolling, and one of the finest documents of the “you’re a sell-out if you associate with Epitaph” movement of the ’90s.